This past Wednesday UPS dropped off a copy of Michael Bird’s new Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction courtesy of Zondervan. I intend to write a full review in time but I wanted to say a few words about the blurbs on the back cover and the general promotion of this volume.
The book’s description begins, “Evangelical Theology is a systematic theology written from the perspective of a biblical scholar.” Think about that statement for a moment and then consider Jason Sexton’s blurb: “It is rare for a biblical scholar to produce a systematic theology of the breadth and depth of this book.” What’s wrong with this picture?
If it’s not obvious then I shall make it so: Theology should be the task of ALL biblical scholars! The Bible is a book about God (θεος)! Even unbelieving scholars purporting to be studying the Bible as just another piece of ancient literature have to engage in theology even if it’s simply a descriptive task! Conversely, if those producing the systematic theologies that we all know, love, and trust are not biblical scholars (i.e., trained in the art and science of exegesis; philology; history; etc.) then God help us all!
It’s a sad state of affairs when we’re shocked that biblical scholars are doing good theology. It’s a crying shame that the two disciplines have even gotten to the point where they’ve become two disciplines. Twas a time when it was simply assumed that good theologians were also scholars of the Scriptures they drew from and where scholars of the Scriptures were expected to be able to theologize with the best of ’em.
So while it might seem that Mike Bird is a new breed of scholar, he’s really just a throwback to a better time when we expected more of our scholars. And this isn’t to disparage Mike; he’s top rate; but the fact that he stands out among the crowd just speaks to the mess that we presently find ourselves in.